Monday, November 14, 2016

Work Plans for the Week of November 14: Back on Track

Last week did not go as I'd expected it to. Some surprises, fortunately, were good. I didn't anticipate how much extra time our new family member would use up, from the additional walkies before we left somewhere to the extra shopping (she's a leash chewer, it turns out) to the snuggles to all of the playtime:

She's a great fit for our family, and I feel happy every time I see her with Will.

The kids also received a surprise invitation to participate in the Children's Museum of Indianapolis' Power of Children Symposium, an invitation-only all-day workshop for children with a history of philanthropy. Syd couldn't attend, because she lives and breathes the Nutcracker these days, but it made for an unexpected but wildly wonderful day in Indy for Will and I--she listened to a keynote speech by Ryan White's mother, was mentored by older children who've won awards for their service work, and did various community service and leadership activities with like-minded peers. I did some Christmas shopping and volunteered in the museum with one of their high school interns. It was excellent and exhausting.

Other of the week's activities derailed us in most upsetting ways. The children and I lost TWO of our most talented teachers and valuable mentors last week, on the same day, even. Their funerals were even on the same day, though in different cities, so that we could only choose one to attend. (Un)fortunately, the children are well-versed in funeral etiquette, so we got through it, and on the way out to frozen yogurt afterwards, Will even noted that the funeral had been "peaceful." When I questioned her about what she meant, it turns out that she'd heard her favorite aunt chewing me out after my Pappa's funeral about a sundry of things that I've done wrong in her eyes, and remembered that aunt suggesting that my Pappa would be ashamed of me (I remember that, too, Baby), and had expected this wonderful math teacher's funeral to also have rancor-filled diatribes.

And she loved that math teacher enough that she went anyway, and didn't say a peep about it. 

The fact that she also heard that other post-funeral rancor-filled diatribe, something that I did not know, and didn't say a peep about that to me, either... well, I don't know what to say about that. I suppose I should at least ask her if her younger sister was sitting there next to her at the time.

And then there was the election. You already know how I feel about that. We've had many family discussions about how to conduct ourselves in a country in which many of our citizens now feel empowered to express their feelings of racism, misogyny, and generalized bigotry. I've done a lot of thinking, mourning the country that I thought that I lived in, feeling ashamed that it's my own position of privilege that has blinded me to the dangerous disaffection of many of those in my country. And maybe I spent a little more time that I needed to watching movies with the kids, or hiding and eating their stolen Halloween candy while they played. One has to give oneself some time to mourn, yes?

But this week we are back to business as usual, and I will be happy to take no happy surprises to distract us if we can also avoid the unhappy ones. I'll be happy to have a normal, typical week of math, grammar, CNN Student News over breakfast--

--ballet, fencing, puppy playtime, and plenty of reading:
I'm going to take that wall of presidential candidates down today, though, and good riddance.
 Books of the Day this week include some living fiction and some fiction that I simply want the kids to read (I'm especially excited about Kiki's Delivery Service, the film of which we watched a couple of weeks ago), and some mythology that I previewed to make sure that it remains consistent with the sources that the children are using for the National Mythology Exam. Memory Work is more Sonnet 116 and geometry identifications, as well as various equations that the kids need to keep fresh. We've got fencing and ballet and ice skating and horseback riding this week, but this weekend we'll see a break from at least one of our university-hosted extracurriculars, as all the college students leave for Thanksgiving break.

And here's the rest of our week!

MONDAY: As I write, Will is taking a Hoffman Academy lesson on her keyboard, and Syd is working on trading cards for Persephone and Demeter. Will doesn't love Hoffman Academy, but I plan to make her complete at least the first 100 lessons. I don't care if she learns piano, necessarily, especially since she's completely disinterested in learning piano, but I want her to know the bare basics about reading music, and develop better rhythm and body awareness. Syd enjoys playing the keyboard, but has told me more than once that she doesn't want to take organized music lessons, so Hoffman Academy it is for her, as well.

Now if I could just find another hour in the day to return to my own instruments of choice, the violin and the guitar, I'd be quite pleased!

My strategy of writing each day's Math Mammoth down on the children's work plans was successful, in that yesterday I was able to discern that neither child had completely finished her math for the week, and so I made them sit down with me on a Sunday morning and do it. Mwa-ha-ha! This week, Will is continuing in geometry, and Syd is continuing in decimals.  Syd finds decimals frustrating, and loathes it when I bring out the Cuisenaire rods and Base Ten blocks to explain each new concept, but the method works, so tough. I had no idea when I bought my first sets of Cuisenaire rods and Base Ten blocks that I would find them so endlessly useful!

The kids also fell behind in Analytical Grammar and Junior Analytical Grammar, but I didn't have them make up that work on Sunday. We'll simply continue doing one exercise each school day.

This week's language arts focus is on the middle grade novel, Wonder. We're reading it this week solely because the public library is hosting a children's book club meeting on the book this weekend, but as I wrote out lesson plans last week, I realized that it is really the perfect thing to be reading if you're feeling sad and hopeless and worried about mankind. There are some mean people in Wonder, of course, some bigoted people, some cruelty, but the book is overall an uplifting one, with a message of tolerance and diversity and the idea of kindness as a choice that we can make over and over and over again every single day.

I finally caved and bought two copies of the Student's Quest Guide for Aristotle Leads the Way (although we're using a library copy of the actual textbook). This semester is busy enough without me creating yet another curriculum from scratch, not when there's a perfectly good one available for the text that we were already planning to use. I'd like to add more enrichment activities specifically concerning Ancient Greece, but I'm considering covering Story of the World volume 1 again next semester, so I may hold off and use them then. Will has already completed today's assignment from Aristotle Leads the Way completely independently, but I read the assigned reading to Syd, and she hasn't yet completed her Student's Quest Guide assignment.

This week's Greek mythology study is of Persephone and Demeter. Syd spends far more time on the trading cards than Will does, but Will loves the extra reading that she does, so both are evenly whole-hearted in their studies. It's nice to study something that deeply interests you! In fact, they're so interested in Greek mythology and all things Ancient Greece that I'm just about to change my planning for our first international trip from Great Britain to Greece.

For our daily journal time, there are pen pal letters to answer or story starters to try out. I mean to write with the children every day, but last week I only managed to do so once. Will has the habit of sneaking off to do her writing so that she can put in minimal effort, Syd got inspired to work on a multi-day story instead of the assignments, and you already know about me. I'll do better this week!

Will's Wordly Wise 7 finally arrived, so she can begin that this week. Syd hasn't progressed much in her own Wordly Wise in weeks, because she's remarkably able to skive off of it when I'm not looking. I will be more vigilant this week!

I have been more vigilant with Will's daily typing practice, after seeing her just poking at letters with her index fingers simply to end the practice session. Now she knows that she can expect spot checks, and performs with more diligence, and Syd always gives it her best shot, although she really struggles with frustration and bad temper when she's not immediately perfect at every single lesson.

TUESDAY: The reason why we're studying Persephone and Demeter for Greek mythology today is that the exercise in myth vs. science in the Student Quest Guide uses that myth. We're multi-tasking!

I had thought that we'd be done with our election curriculum last Tuesday, but I have to do just one more thing: a post-mortem. We have a lovely electoral college map that the kids didn't finish coloring on election night, so they'll finish that on this day and we'll discuss how the election turned out. I anticipate having a lively back-and-forth on the pros and cons of the electoral college, particularly as I go back and forth on it, myself, almost hourly.

I have a lovely children's book on George Washington from the library, one of those that is written to the child and includes fun (if not always terribly enriching) enrichment exercises. I won't have the kids do the entire book, as we're finished with our American Revolution unit, but I would like them to at least read the chapter on Mount Vernon, and there's a recipe for hoecakes included in that chapter that will work quite well as our cooking lesson for the day. Our new oven even has a stovetop griddle!

The Good Turn for Goodwill project has Girl Scouts (in friendly competition with the Boy Scouts), collecting donations for Goodwill. It isn't formally educational (although we will talk about economic disparity as we work), but I welcome the time that I'll spend with the kids, thoughtfully going through our possessions and separating wants from needs from neither. We'll also be collecting other donations are our homeschool group's playgroup, and while Will and I are at fencing on this night, Syd and her dad will deliver the final donations to Goodwill.

WEDNESDAY: Syd didn't finish last week's Animal Behavior MOOC assignments, but I'm okay letting those slide for her as long as she completes the reading/watching. Will completed all of her assignments last week, so she can take the test for real, and Syd can take it "open book," ideally absorbing the content then, if not before.

We also didn't do our geoboard activity last week, and that's solely my fault, as I had big plans for us to make our own large-scale geoboards from scratch. Syd and I spent that entire day instead making two matching skirts from scratch for a playmate's birthday party, so I can't say that it was time poorly spent. We'll try again this week!

We did complete the backpack first aid kits last week, and that, combined with a Girl Scout meeting a couple of weeks ago in which the kids learned hands-only CPR, and a prior field trip to the police station, means that each child only has one or two more activities left to complete her first aid badge. On this day, Syd will research how to comfort and care for an ill person, and Will will begin an online class to teach her how to care for a child--I keep wanting her to take the Safe Sitter class at our local YMCA to meet this requirement, but it always conflicts with fencing, sigh.

THURSDAY: Will has been resistant to writing essays lately, and pretending that she doesn't know how (even though she's been writing essays for years, the little rat), so I'm pretty stoked that this Animal Behavior MOOC has so many opportunities for essay writing. On this day, after completing their assigned reading/watching, the kids will each brainstorm a specific positive behavior that they'd like to increase the frequency of in a specific individual, then break down the steps to take when planning this as a project. And no, Will, you cannot write your answers in list format!

FRIDAY: Syd is less proficient in essay writing (although she's far more willing to work at it than Will is!), so I'm using some extra reading on Treacher Collins syndrome, which Auggie from Wonder has, to inspire the guided writing of a good paragraph.

You'll notice that our Thursday and Friday are lighter than the rest of the week; I've noticed that my enthusiasm runs down as the week progresses, and I simply don't have the energy for multiple assignments that need me to mentor them. I may try to put more independent work assignments in these latter days, but for now, I just need the extra freedom to push a kid through any late work and to begin the next week's lesson plans.

Will is missing ice skating class on this day. I normally try very hard to never schedule something that would cause a child to miss an extracurricular (that I've already paid for!), but in this case, it's well worth it: we're going to drive to a university a couple of hours away from here and go see Bill Nye!!! The kids and I are madly excited.

And, AND, we've just learned that Neil DeGrasse Tyson is coming to our own university in March! We're going to see him, too!!!

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Barring more surprise invitations, this weekend should be much more restful than the last. Will's Mandarin class is for sure cancelled, although I don't know about ballet yet, and the kids' book club meeting on Sunday will give me and Matt a little time to run errands without bored children having to drag along and help.

And then next week, we'll have just two full school days before a holiday that I declare WILL be restful, if I have to break my back to make it so!

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